Moral Reasoning and Moral Development Research on the Woman’s Perspective J.M. Beller, Ph.D. Center for ETHICS*
Carol Gilligan “In a Different Voice” 1977, 1981
Moral reasoning is delimited by “...two moral perspectives that organize thinking in different ways.” • Men: define morality in terms of justice. • Women: less in terms of rights and more in terms of standards of responsibility and care.
Gilligan’s Perspective: • Males = typically a justice/rights orientation • Females = care response orientation • Orientations arise form rational experiences of inequality and attachment • Girls attached to and identify with mothers • Boys attached to mothers and identify with fathers
Believes that: • That response orientation is of a higher order than justice rights orientation • Because Kohlberg’s theory is hierarchical with justice/rights the basis--women would necessarily show a less reasoned perspective on his scales. • First studies of Kohlberg only conducted with men
The two perspectives are not opposite ends of a continuum, “...with justice uncaring and caring unjust...”, but rather, “...a different method of organizing the basic elements of moral judgment: self, others, and the relationship between them.”(Gilligan, 1987, p.22)
“One moral perspective dominates psychological thinking and is embedded in the most widely used measures for measuring maturity of moral reasoning.”C. Gilligan, 1987, p.22
Gilligan’s Theory Based on two observational studies. Study One: 25 college students Study Two: 29 women considering abortion
Gilligan’s Research: “shift[s] the focus of attention from ways people reason about hypothetical dilemmas to ways people construct moral conflicts and choice in their lives...and [makes] it possible to see what experiences people define in moral terms, and to explore the relationship between the understanding of moral problems and the reasoning strategies used and the actions taken in attempting to solve them.” Gilligan, 1987, p.21
Alternative Stage Sequence: Three levels with transitional phases between each: Level One: Complete concern for self. Transitional Phase: From self to care and concern for others.
Level Two Level Two: Primary interest in the care of others (to gain their acceptance). Transitional Phase: awareness of self relative to developing relationships with others: responsibility toward their care and needs.
Level Three Level Three: Nonviolence and universal caring “articulates an ethic of responsibility that focuses on the actual consequences of choice,,,the criterion of adequacy or moral principles changes from objective truth to ‘best fit’, and can only be established within the context of the dilemma itself.” Murphy and Gilligan, 1980, p.83
Good Points: • Concept of care giving and nurturing • Relationship of self to others, responsibility • Empathy • Effect on environment
Problems: Walker’s Response (1984, p.679) “Unfortunately, the only data that have been presented as yet to support this proposed stage sequence have been anecdotal...None of the usual types of evidence for a stage sequence (i.e. longitudinal, cross-sectional, or experimental) has been reported...Nor has she provided an explanation as to why makes and females may develop different orientations to moral judgment.”
Flanagan’s Response 1982, p.511: “One has to wonder why in two decades of research by hundreds of Kohlbergians this new stage was not noticed before...One has to fear the existence of the Rosenthal effect--fear, that is, that the experimenter’s preferences may have carried the data rather than the other way around.”
Research Problems: • Non-random sample selection • Rosenthal Effect, Hawthorne Effect • Determination of stage theory through subjective interviewing techniques. • Non-replication of findings
Hawthorne Effect: Subjects may try harder simply because they are in the control group.
Rosenthal Effect: Researcher’s biases tend to sway the results to be what the researcher wants to find
Research Problems continued... • Small sample sizes • Generalizations from Case study, interview approach • Only evaluated women... • Her later writings do not support earlier work (1987 on). • Has led to a blind following by supporters...
“Rather than arguing over the extent to which sex bias is inherent in Kohlberg’s theory of moral development, it might be more appropriate to ask why the myth that males are more advanced in moral reasoning than females persists in light of such little evidence.” Walker, 1984, p.688
Gilligan’s response: • Response orientation morally superior • Two orientations are fundamentally incompatible, but ones that are equally valid and acceptable for the respective sexes • Complimentary perspectives maintained in some dynamic tension • Each orientation is deficient without the other
3. No specified mechanism for development • 4. Politically dangerous to say that sexes differ in their basic life orientations • 5. How does the ethic of care include notions of impartiality and generalizability? • 6. The two orientations are logically and psychologically incompatible.(perhaps alpha bias--tendency to exaggerate differences)
7. Gilligan’s definition of Kohlberg’s justice/right’s orientation may be inadequate and unrepresentative of his theory.
Kohlbgerg’s Moral stage theory: • He neither predicts nor requires sex differences in either developmental pathway or rate of development. • Order through stages = invariant, hierarchical, universal.
Determinant of Rate • Attainment of prerequisite levels of cognitive and perspective taking development---moral reasoning has a basis in cognition. • Studies indicate the attainment of moral stage requires the prior or concomitant attainment of the parallel cognitive and perspective taking stage.
Interaction provide the cognitive and social disequilibrium needed to induce development • Experiences arise through interpersonal relationships with family, friends, participation in economic, political, legal institutions, education, occupation, citizenship…..
Sources of sex bias in these two theories: • Sex of the theorist (is it possible that a theorist may not fully and adequately describe the moral thinking of persons of the opposite sex?) • The Ideological basis for the moral theory. • Kohlberg--western moral philosophy/liberal social science • Gilligan -- contemporary feminism
Measure of moral functioning advocated by the approach: • Kohlberg: hypothetical dilemmas, unfamiliar issues, detached emotional involvement • Kohlberg: male protagonists • Gilligan: reliance on participants’ recall discussion of actual dilemmas from their personal experience • Gilligan’s dilemmas = ideosyncratic-interpretation of individuals; reasoning is fraught with confounds.
The original sample upon which the theories’ constructs were derived. • Kohlberg = male samples • Gilligan = female samples